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Zombie Gold Rush (Switch) artwork

Zombie Gold Rush (Switch) review

"Zombie Gold Rush isn't a deep or pretty score chaser, and it is quite repetitive. But dang it, I like it!"

You want gold, and the more of it, the better. You also happen to have found a whole bunch of that which glitters, stashed in treasure chests large and small. There's just one problem: the precious loot is guarded by a horde of the undead. But that's okay, because you have a bunch of heavily armored and armed vehicles and you're not afraid to use them.

Zombie Gold Rush doesn't make a whole lot of sense when you try to examine its plot. What do zombies need with gold? Aren't brains their thing? But whatever. Nonsensical though it is, even by video game standards, the plot at least gave the developers an excuse to string together a unique experience that makes for a reasonably compelling way to spend 6 to 8 hours of leisure time, provided you're willing to look past a few flaws.

Zombie Gold Rush (Switch) image

The setup is pleasingly simple. You choose one of the available vehicles and then you drive it through one of five vertically scrolling stages, blasting any zombies that come to greet your approach. The vehicle moves steadily forward all on its own, while the undead parade around it. You control only your shots, moving a circular cursor around the screen to direct bullets, flames and so forth. Periodically, you can also unleash a secondary attack, such as a barrage of homing missiles or explosive grenades.

Zombies keep coming, but you don't have to destroy all of them or worry if some sneak past you and disappear through the bottom of the screen. Collisions are bad, though, and you'll have to work pretty hard to avoid letting your enemies get close enough to do some damage. At first, even survival seems difficult, but quickly you realize that the game is a score chaser (complete with online leaderboards that monitor various aspects of play). You start to look for ways to more quickly eliminate the main threat, so you can spend more time blasting optional targets and revealing additional treasure chests that mean a larger payout if you should happen to survive the stage. You also start watching for UFOs, since blasting all four of them gains you access to a bonus wave of zombies.

Zombie Gold Rush (Switch) image

Once that shift in focus takes place, the game suddenly becomes a great deal more engaging. There are only five individual stages, and a few of them aren't even all that long, so memorizing their layout becomes a simple task. Escaping with the most possible loot, however, is another matter. Sometimes, getting greedy even works against you. Each vehicle is able to carry a maximum number of chests before it starts losing mobility. At the end of a stage, you can grab a particularly large treasure and then you get to flee to the south as zombies chase you in off-road vehicles. If you exceeded your weight limit, these last runs can be difficult to survive. Your payout is severely diminished when you crash and burn just ahead of sweet victory.

Fortunately, you gain access to additional vehicles as you unlock new stages. Most of them aren't particularly expensive to purchase, but upgrading them is another matter. By the end of the campaign, you'll need to have 200-level vehicles, which requires an investment in millions of gold. In exchange for that effort, you gain higher carrying capacity, superior armor and faster shots, which just might give you the edge you need to steal treasure from your most advanced adversaries.

Zombie Gold Rush (Switch) image

Upgrades also happen within stages, but they are only temporary. Between most waves, you can pick between three random upgrades. Often, you can restore a third of your life meter, but you're always better off if that's not even a concern and you're instead able to focus on improving peripheral or primary shots and range. I would personally have liked to see a little more vehicle customization, rather than a set scheme. It does feel like a missed opportunity, but I suppose the limitation allowed the developers to more closely monitor difficulty progression. The game is often difficult, but seldom feels cheap or unmanageable.

Though it is repetitive by design,Zombie Gold Rush did manage to keep my attention for quite some time and even kept me playing past my self-imposed bedtime. The visuals are quite limited, no doubt owing to the game's origins as a free-to-play mobile title with micro-transactions, but they do get the job done. It's easy to tell what to expect from each enemy, and the screen never gets so busy that you can't make strategies that will allow you to survive and thrive. There's not a lot of music or unique audio work, either, but not a lot was needed and the stuff that's there fits well.

Zombie Gold Rush (Switch) image

My only real issue with the game is the aforementioned grinding, which sometimes feels excessive. The developers make no effort to convince players to speed things up by spending real-world money, which I definitely appreciate, but upgrading each vehicle so it is in good shape to tackle the last of the available stages takes a long time even when you're finally managing sensational runs along the most lucrative routes. What's unfortunate is that you must do it several times to get a proper sense of which vehicle best suits your play style and will allow you to persevere against those frankly brutal final waves of the undead (I found that I favored one of the earliest options, a sports car with a spread shot).

Zombie Gold Rush doesn't feel to me like the sort of game a wide variety of players will enjoy at length, but there's a particular audience that will have a lot of fun with it and I seem to belong to that group. If you're looking for a unique vertical shooter that is accessible and surprisingly addictive, this one fits the bill and costs less than $5. Just don't worry overly much about what the zombies are planning to do with all of that gold you'll be looting. I'm sure it's nothing nefarious.


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Staff review by Jason Venter (November 08, 2017)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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